Written by Phil Chardis, special to UConnHuskies.com
STORRS, Conn. --- With roughly two weeks to put together and finalize the 2017 recruiting class, it wasn't enough for UConn football coach Randy Edsall and his brand new coaching staff to hit the ground running. Hitting the air flying and hitting the road driving was more like it.
Planes, trains and automobiles? Absolutely. Maybe a few boats, bicycles, and scooters as well if that's what it took to speak to the student-athletes the staff had identified as players who were the right fit for the Huskies.
The result is a 20-man UConn recruiting class, announced Wednesday morning, that has the head coach excited about beginning his second stint as the man in charge of the program.
"We wouldn't have been able to accomplish what we accomplished in such a short period of time without the efforts of the staff," Edsall said. "The staff did a tremendous job, in really a two-week period, to be able to go out and evaluate these young men and then go out and sell the University of Connecticut to them and their families."
When it came to that part of the equation, Edsall admitted he had an edge - having been there, done that, he knows what a quality product he now has to offer. That wasn't quite the case when he took over the program in 1999, took it into the upper-class world of Division I and built it into the 2010 Fiesta Bowl participant.
"When I was here the first time, I didn't have anything to sell," he said. "This time, it was a little bit easier. They would ask about the number of guys in the NFL, the graduation rate, all the things we do. I had 12 years of knowledge and information that I was able to use in the home --- I had examples of guys who have gone on to be successful away from the football field and also guys who have continued their career in football.
"With all the knowledge that I have about UConn and this football program, and the enthusiasm I have about it, it's easy to sell."
The recruiting class includes 18 high school seniors, one junior college graduate, and one graduate student. It addresses the needs that the coaching staff deemed a high priority - quality offensive linemen, an outstanding group of three quarterbacks, added size and speed and athleticism at wide receiver, and an experienced running back in graduate student David Williams, who comes to UConn after playing for South Carolina in the SEC. Edsall is particularly pleased with the quarterback trio of Marvin Washington, David Pindell and Jordan McAfee.
"I believe that it all starts under center," the head coach said. "These guys all have the mobility to make plays with their legs as well as their arms. They are leaders and winners, which you must have at that position."
In all, the class includes 11 offensive players - three quarterbacks, two wide receivers, a tight end, a running back and four linemen - and nine defensive players - six defensive backs, two linebackers, and a defensive lineman.
Obviously, the new UConn staff wasn't about to use the time constraint as an excuse for mediocrity.
"We weren't going to lower our expectations at all," said recruiting coordinator Aaron Smith, himself a former Husky. "We went out to find quality players that we think we can develop into successful student-athletes at UConn, the way Coach Edsall always has. When you think of UConn football, you think of Coach Edsall. Obviously, Coach had a plan and once we had a staff in place, we put our heads together and went out to get it done. We are very excited about the group we're bringing in."
Not that it was easy. Edsall and his staff had a two-week schedule that would drive a travel agent out of the business.
"One day, we got up at 3 in the morning here, took a flight to Baltimore to see five kids, finished up at 9 at night and drove up to Princeton, New Jersey, and got there about 11 and saw Ryan (Van Demark) the next morning," Edsall said. "Then we drove to Philly to see Robert King and then drove to Cumberland (Maryland) to see Brayden Brown the next morning. Then we drove back 2½ hours to the airport to fly to West Palm Beach to see Robert (Holmes) and drove up to Orlando to see Marvin (Washington), then came back. So, it was a lot of fun."
Recruiting is finished, for the time being, although Edsall indicated there is always room for a roster upgrade, if the situation is right. Plus, the staff has already begun work on the 2018 recruiting class -- no sense waiting until the last two weeks.